What is the opposite of courage? Discourage! So, if I am discouraged, I have no courage. I looked these words up in the 1828 dictionary (back when words meant what they were supposed to!). Here’s what I found for courage: Bravery; intrepidity; that quality of mind which enables men to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness, or without fear or depression of spirits; valor; boldness; resolution. It is a constituent part of fortitude; but fortitude implies patience to bear continued suffering. And for discourage: To extinguish the courage of; to dishearten; to depress the spirits; to deject; to deprive of confidence.
As I considered these definitions, the story of Caleb, Joshua and the other 10 spies who were sent to Canaan ahead of the children of Israel came to mind. In Numbers 13:20, Moses tells them all,”And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land.” But what happened to the majority? Numbers 13:31-33 “We be not able to go up against the people; for they [are] stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, [is] a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it [are] men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, [which come] of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” The years of doubt and murmuring had become habitual, hadn’t they?
Let’s analyze this passage just a little. All of the spies apparently made a good start. However, the crisis revealed that there was a difference in these men. Ten of these men did some interesting things: they saw that the goal (Canaan) was good and to be desired and that the fruit there was awesome, but they said; 1) the people are huge, 2) we are grasshoppers, 3) they are stronger than we are. Where is God in their calculations? God is strangely absent, and so they were “deprived of confidence”—they were discouraged. Interesting, isn’t it?
But what about the other two spies? What report did they bring? Numbers 13: 30 “Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” We are well able? What!!!? Didn’t they see the giants? Didn’t they realize that they were grasshoppers? Immediately the other ten proceeded to persecute these two men who had “that quality of mind which enables men to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness, or without fear or depression of spirits.”
This is very fascinating to me, and I found the reason for Caleb’s courage here: “It was Caleb's faith that gave him courage, that kept him from the fear of man, and enabled him to stand boldly and unflinchingly in the defense of the right.” Review and Herald, May 30, 1912. According to this passage, it is faith that brings true courage. Caleb and Joshua remembered Who they served and served Who they remembered!
Why, then, did the other ten fail? Consider this: “Hope and courage gave place to cowardly despair, as the spies uttered the sentiments of their unbelieving hearts, which were filled with discouragement prompted by Satan. Their unbelief cast a gloomy shadow over the congregation, and the mighty power of God, so often manifested in behalf of the chosen nation, was forgotten. The people did not wait to reflect; they did not reason that He who had brought them thus far would certainly give them the land; they did not call to mind how wonderfully God had delivered them from their oppressors, cutting a path through the sea and destroying the pursuing hosts of Pharaoh. They left God out of the question, and acted as though they must depend solely on the power of arms. PP 388
That last sentence is so powerful, friends, and according to this, discouragement is “leaving God out of the question.” This illustration is basically a summary of the experiences of the children of Israel. Sometimes they remembered God but more often, they forgot Him. And these same choices, with their respective outcomes—are before us. What about you? Are you a grasshopper? Are your circumstances or failures giants? Is your God able to bring you into the heavenly Canaan? Are you magnifying something above God? If you are, you must realize the cause of your discouragement. We must remember the downward spiral (revealed in a time of crisis) of the ten spies in contrast with the steadfast faith of Caleb and Joshua, “for whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. “ Romans 15:4.
We also have a choice: murmur or remember.